Transatlantic Intelligencer: ‘Banlieue’ Voting, and Poles and the German Occupation

FRANCE: THE 'BANLIEUES' VOTE FOR THE RIGHT? -- Municipal elections are upcoming in France in the next weeks. A front-page headline on the subject in the Feb. 17-18 of the daily Le Monde would undoubtedly shock many readers of traditional English-language new sources. "Municipal Elections," it reads, "Banlieues on the Right, Downtown on the Left." Banlieues on the Right? The very word "banlieues" became widely-known to English speakers last year not only on account of the violence with which the outskirts of France's major urban centers are regularly afflicted, but also because of the supposed hatred of their residents for the presidential candidate of the French Right: current French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Writing in the New York Times magazine, author David Rieff went so far as to begin an article on the banlieues by quoting a young "banlieusard" proffering a death threat against Sarkozy.

But as I pointed out in a response to Rieff's article on WPR, the notion of Nicolas Sarkozy being the "Scourge of the Banlieues" was always a myth. The very town where Rieff met his fierce young interlocutor who wanted to "kill" Sarkozy, in fact voted for Sarkozy by a comfortable margin. More generally, while the election data showed many of France's banlieues tilting to the "Left" and Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal, the tilt was by no means as pronounced as one would have been led to believe by tendentious and factually-challenged reporting like that of Rieff.

Now, however, Le Monde reports that Socialist Party officials are concerned about "an irresistible move to the Right" of the banlieues. On the other hand, the paper suggests that President Sarkozy's UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) will have trouble holding on to downtown districts "affected by the arrival of well-to-do couples with new 'qualitative' expectations." As I noted in my earlier article, chic downtown neighborhoods in Paris in fact already massively voted Socialist and Royal in the 2007 presidential elections: another detail that does not jibe with the vision of French "class politics" commonly conveyed by the established American media.

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